Something amazing happened this morning. Just as predicted, I woke to a late February dusting of snow on the rooftops, the tree branches and the road in front of our house. As the sun approached the horizon I could see the tiny flakes falling outside the window and clinging thickly to whatever they came in contact with. The blue-gray half-light of the dawn shown like silver falling on the frosted landscape. It was eerie and lovely.
The quiet hush of the snow fell so perfectly on my ears that I was thrilled when I looked up the closing list and found local schools were out for the day. There was no one to wake and no where we had to go. The quiet lingered throughout the morning as the snowflakes danced across my lawn.
A Special Gift
This day was a gift. A late season opportunity to find joy in winter even as we see signs of spring beneath the snowfall. The snow rests as a pristine backdrop to the tulips and daffodils that grace my kitchen table. It frosts the yellow fringe of witch hazel blossoms on the side of the house and my neighbor’s freshly opened crocus blossoms.
While spring breaks open, winter offers its own generous window dressing and gives us a day or two to stop and marvel at its beauty. There is no better way to do that than with a hot cup of chocolate sipped beside a warm fire. This recipe is rich and delicious while still frothy and fun. Dress it with a spoon of marshmallow crème or whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon or chili pepper. Better yet, stir it with a candy cane, if you can still find one, and do what my son suggested this afternoon; listen to Christmas carols. When I asked him why, he explained, "It didn’t snow at Christmas." I thought that was perfect. Isn’t catching up on the overlooked details and capturing the moment what snow days are all about?
Spiced Hot Chocolate
4 cups whole milk
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1/2 vanilla bean (or a small splash of vanilla extract)
2-3 drops almond extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
Whipped cream, marshmallow creme or marshmallows (if desired)
A sprinkle of cinnamon or ground chipotle chile pepper
In a small saucepan combine the milk, vanilla bean, cinnamon and cloves. Heat the spiced milk mixture until near boiling. Remove from heat.
Remove the cinnamon and cloves. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the milk mixture. Discard the pod.
Whisk the chocolate chips into the milk mixture until melted and smooth. Add the almond extract and (vanilla extract if you didn't use the vanilla bean.)
Using a stick blender, blend the hot chocolate in the saucepan until frothy. Pour into mugs. Top with marshmallow creme or whipped cream and a pinch of spice, if desired.
Serve and enjoy!